Amazon, Apple, and Google Race to Lead Voice

Amazon, Apple, and Google Race to Lead Voice

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The war to dominate voice technology is heating up – and getting more interesting. Both Amazon and Google have recently announced important enhancements to make their voice assistants, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, smarter and more useful. And to increase the level of competition, on June 5 Apple announced its HomePod smart speaker, powered by Siri, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The ability of a consumer to search from multiple devices anywhere they are makes it clear that brands’ strategies need to adapt for voice searches.

Apple Plays Catch-Up

 The launch of HomePod represents Apple’s attempt to gain a stake in the market for smart speakers activated by voice. Apple has been late to the playing field before, but when it enters, Apple creates hardware that leaves competitors in the dust. Think of the iPhone and how it changed people’s lives, and, even more so, the way people search.

Having access to another voice-activated device no matter where you are, whether it’s the HomePod, Apple Watch or iPhone, will only increase the use of voice search. Apple’s sneak peak of the HomePod mainly focused on its abilities for music in the home, but it also touched on similar smart speaker features such as weather, directions, messages, and reminders.

Additional Siri-related announcements included a new voice that is more conversational, which will match with the way consumers speak to Siri. Apple also announced a new Siri-powered watch face for the Apple Watch. Apple is enhancing Siri on the Apple Watch by using machine learning to gather data on how you utilize your device. Siri will use this data to then show you relative and interesting content.

Apple’s release of HomePod occurred on the heels of Google’s and Amazon’s own announcements related to voice technology. It’s instructive to review how Amazon and Google built off their already established products to differentiate themselves.

 Amazon Integrates Voice and Search with Echo

On May 9, Amazon – which dominates 70 percent of the market for voice controlled speakers – announced that its Echo voice-activated home speaker is getting more visual. The new Echo Show product includes a touch screen that integrates visual features with voice. According to Amazon, “Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask.”

In addition, Echo Show users can make video calls, thus making Echo Show a competitor to Apple’s FaceTime, Google’s Hangouts, and Microsoft’s Skype.

What Echo Show does for brands and consumers is create a more integrated way for them to share content with each other. For instance, consumers can ask Alexa to make their dining reservations at a restaurant and also call up a menu, display available movie times at different theaters, and watch movie trailers, among many other possibilities.

According to Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff, “The Amazon Echo Show is a quantum leap beyond any Alexa-infused product we’ve seen before” because of the new interface with the touch screen. He also noted that Echo Show will always communicate with you, while other devices wait for you to initiate.

It’s obvious Amazon is becoming a stronger platform for amplifying your brand through paid and organic content, both visual and voice-related. If you do not have an Amazon strategy yet, KeywordFirst highly recommends experimenting with advertising on their platform.

Google Gets Smarter

Meanwhile, at its annual I/O event, Google introduced a slew of features to make Google Home  and Google Assistant more useful.

As if to answer Amazon Echo, Google launched Visual Responses, which also integrates visual content with voice. As Google noted on its blog, “You’ll be able to see Assistant answers on the biggest screen in your house, whether you’re asking ‘what’s on YouTube TV right now?’ or ‘what’s on my calendar today?’”

In other words, Google provides the same functionality as Amazon but with the power of the Google search and discovery ecosystem more closely integrated into the experience.

Google made many other enhancements to Google Assistant and Google Home. For instance, with Proactive Assistance, Google Home sends people information without being asked. So if you have an appointment with your doctor entered on your Google calendar, Google Home will remind you of the date and time, suggest a driving route, or provide other useful information such as helpful stops on the way to the doctor.

Another interesting improvement consists of making Google Assistant more conversational and more contextual. As Google noted on its blog, we often want to have follow-up conversations with Google Assistant. So Google has made it possible to see the history of your conversation with Google Assistant as you would a text thread, thus making it easier for you to re-engage with a conversation – say, managing a shopping list at the store after you’ve started one and then had your trip to Target interrupted by something else.

Bottom Line

Google, Amazon and Apple understand that people and brands find each other in more sophisticated, multi-dimensional ways. All of these companies have evolved to incorporate voice search tools and now multi-media discovery platforms.

Brands need to think of themselves as multi-media advertisers in the world that Amazon, Google and Apple are shaping. Performance media is not an either/or choice between voice, text-based, and visual platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. These three leading brands are forcing businesses to think of their media as overlapping, integrated platforms.

Virtual assistants are using machine learning to understand the consumer’s voice, interests, behaviors and intent to give them a better search experience. And with voice-activated devices advancing, consumer’s search behavior is shifting. We’ve mentioned before that voice searches are more conversational and natural. Advertisers now need to focus their content strategy not only around conversational language, but also visuals and the context of the search including the type of device and location.

Image source: PC Magazine

 

 

Voice Search Gets Louder

Voice Search Gets Louder

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Recently we’ve seen some news developments that underscore how rapidly voice technology is growing as a way for people and brands to accomplish increasingly sophisticated tasks. Companies are evolving their strategies to accommodate the rising popularity of voice. It’s time to take a closer look at adapting your digital marketing for voice search. These examples show how big companies such as Amazon, Google, and Samsung are accommodating the rise of voice:

Voice Assistants Take Hold

Research firm Parks Associates recently announced that the number of voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home more than doubled from 2015 to 2016. According to Parks Associates, the adoption rate of smart speakers with voice assistants grew from 5 percent of U.S. broadband households in Q4 2015 to 12 percent in Q4 2016. Parks Associates Research Analyst Dina Abdelrazik said, “Voice interfaces are advancing due to continued improvements in machine learning and natural language processing, paired with the prevalence of portable devices. Apple increased consumer familiarity of voice control with its introduction of Siri in 2011, but the later-to-market Amazon Alexa has taken a clear lead in this category.”

Voice assistants are taking hold for a number of reasons, and Parks Associates cites an important one — advancements in forms of artificial intelligence, which make voice assistants more effective at interpreting complex commands. The growth of voice assistants, along with the popularity of mobile devices, is helping fuel a rise in voice search. Voice search has quickly developed from a topic of research to a reality. Consumers, armed with mobile devices, are finding that they can ask for more complex things to buy, find places to go, and decide on things to do with increased sophistication, by searching with more conversational questions such as “When are the Cubs hosting the St. Louis Cardinals next at Wrigley Field?” or “Where can I find deep dish pizza with free parking on Chicago’s north side?”

Samsung Launches Bixby

On March 20, Samsung announced the launch of its own voice assistant, Bixby, which gives Samsung an entree into a field that includes tools such as Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Apple’s Siri. Samsung claims that Bixby will feature a better user interface that combines touch and voice and an improved ability to interpret commands. As Samsung noted in a press release, “Bixby will be smart enough to understand commands with incomplete information and execute the commanded task to the best of its knowledge, and then will prompt users to provide more information and take the execution of the task in piecemeal. This makes the interface much more natural and easier to use.” Samsung will make Bixby available with its Galaxy mobile device and plans to expand Bixby to TVs and other appliances.

Google Changes AdWords

Recently, Google announced some changes to AdWords exact match close variants, which will affect advertisers’ keyword strategies for voice search. Close variants, which Google introduced in 2012, is a feature that makes it possible for an ad to appear in a search result even for searches that contain misspellings, plurals, and close matches to keywords that an advertiser is bidding on. Now, AdWords is expanding the feature to include variations in word order and to ignore function words such as “in” and “for.”

Google suggests this change will benefit advertisers by decreasing the amount of keywords needed in a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, which is true. But the expansion of close variants is also Google’s way to accommodate the rise of voice search. Here’s why:

  • Voice searches use more conversational language.
  • Conversational language can include many variations, such as the use of who, what, where, when and why questions.
  • Because of the conversational nature of voice search, campaign managers might feel compelled to over-build their keyword list in their account in order to cover all possible variations of voice searches that fit their brand. But Google has mitigated against over-building keyword lists by making word order and function words irrelevant. A keyword bid will match for “Flights to Chicago,” “flights in Chicago,” “flights for Chicago,” and so on.
  • In other words, now advertisers do not need to worry about building out exact match keywords in a variety of orders or even include every function word. Advertisers still need to focus on conversational questions including what, where, when, and why, as well as long-tailed queries. But the variations in keywords will now be minimized.

It’s obvious brands need to adapt their paid and organic search strategies to accommodate the use of voice search. In a recently published blog post, we discuss some of the key ways that businesses need to adapt their pay-per-click (PPC) strategies for voice search. Check out our post and contact us to discuss how we can help you adapt your digital marketing for voice search.

Image source: Digital Trends

Adapting Your PPC Strategy for Voice Search

Adapting Your PPC Strategy for Voice Search

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The evolution of artificial intelligence is changing the way people search online. Consumers are constantly connected to devices whether mobile, desktop, or tablet. And people are increasingly using voice search because of the proliferation of personal assistants on these devices such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Amazon’s Alexa. When utilizing voice search capabilities, consumers are exercising a more natural and conversational language, thus altering their search behavior. Consequently, brands need to alter their own behavior, including their strategies for pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. Since people do not type and speak in the same manner, digital marketers need to understand how their audience relies on voice search in order to be relevant in the era of voice search.

Unfortunately, Google and Bing do not provide a way to pull data regarding voice searches. Voice searches are translated into text and listed as regular search queries. At times you might see, “Siri, can you . . . ” or “OK Google” before a search term, but that’s not always the case. Brands need not wait for technology to advance in order to adapt their PPC campaigns for voice search. Here are a few strategies to consider:

Evaluate

First, evaluate your search queries and look for conversional text. “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” are great phrases to focus on. Also, pay attention to any long-tail queries that include a natural phrase such as “near me” or “can I get the number for . . . ” Use these queries to understand what consumers want to know about your products or services. You can then gather those learnings to strategize a personal user experience for voice searchers.

People using voice search might seek a different user experience than what you’re providing for text searches. For example, the consumer might be trying to find “a plumber near me” but being driven to a landing page with a list of products on it. Once you know what your audience is looking for, determine if your paid advertisements and landing pages satisfy those searches so that you can improve performance for your PPC campaigns.

Optimize and Customize

Artificial intelligence encourages searchers to use conversational language. When trying to find an Italian restaurant in Chicago, one using voice search might ask: “What is the best Italian restaurant in Chicago?” However, if that same user wanted to search on a keyboard, they might type: “Best Italian restaurants Chicago.” The variation in tone shows that voice searches are looking for an immediate answer while text searches indicates that the consumer is still in the research phase.

Since voice search users are on the go looking for a quick direct answer, it’s important to optimize your content and ad copy to align with all the questions related to your offerings. Customize ad copy and drive traffic to a high-quality content landing page to ensure a better user experience and quality score. It’s also important to incorporate human-like content in your search ads and landing pages to match the natural phrases being searched.

Listen and Learn

Since voice search is becoming more widely adopted, especially for millennials, we can predict that we will see more PPC advancements and features to come focused around artificial intelligence. Even though we cannot track data for voice search yet, take advantage of what we have access to now by creating tests and strategies. Once you understand how your audience is using voice search, you can begin to prepare your PPC campaigns for the growth of artificial intelligence.